OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is defending his decision to send state patrol troopers to the U.S.-Mexico border at the request of fellow Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and using it as an opportunity to rail against the Biden administration.
Ricketts announced Saturday that he would send 25 troopers to Del Rio, Texas, this week for a deployment to last as long as 16 days. The troopers will partner with the Texas Department of Public Safety, although it's not clear what they'll be doing or how much the mission will cost.
Other GOP-led states, including Florida, have committed law enforcement agents to Texas as well, arguing that the federal government isn't doing enough to stop illegal immigration.
The White House announced Wednesday that Vice President Kamala Harris would travel to the U.S.-Mexico border. The visit comes amid criticism from Republicans and even some fellow Democrats that Harris has declined to visit the area despite her role leading the Biden administration's response to a sharp increase in migration.
“This is a huge failure on the federal government's part, and that leaves states to try to come up with whatever solution they can to try to stem these sorts of crises,” Ricketts said in an interview posted Wednesday with the Fox News Rundown podcast.
Ricketts pointed to an increase in unauthorized southern border crossings over the last year. U.S. Customs and Border Protection recorded more than 180,000 encounters on the Mexican border in May, the most since March 2000. But the numbers were boosted by a pandemic-related ban on seeking asylum, which encouraged repeated attempts to cross the border because getting caught carried no legal consequences.
Critics questioned the need to send Nebraska law enforcement agents to the border.
Rose Godinez, a legal and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, said federal officials have more than enough resources to patrol the border.
“We see this as an effort by Gov. Ricketts to politicize this issue,” Godinez said.
She said the border crossings are a symptom of the federal government's failure for years to pass broader changes to the U.S. immigration system.
“It adds to the question of why the state patrol is needed down there,” she said. “This is not the best use of their time.”
Ricketts' announcement, which blasted the federal government's immigration polices as “disastrous,” comes as the conservative positions himself as a vocal critic of President Joe Biden. Ricketts has railed against various administration proposals in nationally broadcast interviews, including a goal to conserve nearly one-third of America’s lands and waters by 2030 that Ricketts paints as a federal land grab.
A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that the agency “continues to leverage our longstanding relationships with state and local law enforcement," but deferred questions about state decisions to the governors.
Texas requested assistance from Nebraska through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a partnership of state emergency management agencies.
Nebraska State Patrol spokesman Cody Thomas said the agency won't know how much the deployment will cost until it's complete. He noted that under the multi-state compact Nebraska has been reimbursed for similar services before.
Nebraska sent 11 troopers to North Dakota on two separate occasions during protests over the Dakota Access pipeline. The state also sent 23 state patrol personnel to Minnesota to help provide security during the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.
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